The bench was dreadful against the Pacers on Thursday. They very nearly cost the team a win against a sub-.500 team. Tonight, they made up for it by carrying the team to a win over Miami, who they're chasing in the playoff race.
The bench was so productive, Tony DiLeo left them on the floor late in the fourth when the game was still in question. They opened the quarter with a 21-5 run , then employed stifling defense to extend the lead to double digits. Royal Ivey shut down Dwyane Wade for the entire fourth quarter, Wade hit one free throw and missed all 4 of his field goal attempts. Ivey also out-scored Wade 10-1 in the final quarter.
The story of the game, though, was the play of Marreese Speights. Matched up against the number two pick from last year's draft, Michael Beasley, for most of his minutes. Speights put on a show, especially in the fourth.
In 22 minutes of action, Marreese finished with 15 points on 5/8 shooting with 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 blocks, 2 assists and zero turnovers. In the fourth, he had 9 points, 2 blocks, 2 assists and 3 boards.
I came out of the game thinking Beasley's offensive game was impressive. He was the only source of offense for Miami in the fourth quarter. He made a couple of nice drives and his jumper looked pure. When I took a step back, I realized score was the only thing he did. In 27 minutes of action, Beasley jacked up 12 shots, never got to the line, grabbed 1 board and turned the ball over 3 times. On this night, Speights was clearly the best rookie big man on the floor.
We probably shouldn't overlook the effort Reggie put in tonight, either. He was definitely the best version of himself in that fourth quarter and he finished with 5 points and 9 boards in only 20 minutes of work. All the bigs actually did a good job on the boards, Sammy had 10 in his 21 minutes.
It wasn't all roses for the bench, though. Lou continues to struggle mightily. 2/9 from the field, but he did chip in 4 boards, 4 dimes and 3 steals. You can also add Thad to the negative ledger. He shot much better tonight, but only 2 rebounds in 32 minutes is unacceptable. Iguodala's shot was off, so he wasn't shooting. 4/10 on the game. Andre Miller really stabilized the team during a terrible run in the third quarter. His shot wasn't falling either, but he forced the issue and was 7/7 from the line in the quarter. Those points kept the game from getting out of hand when the Heat built a double-digit lead.
I want to get back to the headline of this post for a quick moment. There was a stretch during the fourth quarter when Marreese Speights took this game over on both ends of the floor. The Heat came out in a zone, and on consecutive plays, Speights found that soft spot in the middle we talked about a couple of days ago. The first time, he hit an easy jumper from the foul line. The next time, he drew the defense to him and found a cutting Royal Ivey with a nice back-door pass for an easy layup. His athleticism was too much for Miami's front court to handle. He saved two possessions with hustle on balls falling out of bounds, he beat them to the glass on both ends. He basically put on a show. He looked like Amare at Amare's best. Games like this make you excited about the future of this franchise.
Player of The Game: Speights
Team Record: 25-24
Up Next: Phoenix on Monday, w/ or w/out Amare.
There was so much to talk about, I completely forgot to mention that I tracked turnovers tonight. I wanted to see how the Sixers would handle the pressure defense on the perimeter. Here's the breakdown:
- Thad dropped pass. Should've been a dunk.
- Chalmers steal. Nice pick on a bounce pass from Miller.
- Evans dropped pass. Hit him right in the hands, but Thad shouldn't have been passing to him.
- Lou dribbles off his foot out of bounds.
- Lou up and down. Stupid play.
- Iguodala, bad pass. Caught in mid-air on a bad alley oop.
- Miller, loose ball foul on Marion (questionable turnover), but they counted it.
- Iguodala, traveling. Picked up pivot foot on drive.
- Miller, bad pass. Green on the backdoor, got there late, or pass was off the mark.
- Miller up and down. Went up for shot, tried to pass at last second, but landed first.
- Charge on Lou.